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Tick Facts, Identification and Controltick

Scientific Order: Acari

Common Family: All ticks fit into one of two main families: hard ticks (family Ixodidae) and soft ticks (family Argasidae). All common species in New York are hard ticks.

Common Species in New York:

  • Deer (or blacklegged) tick (Ixodes scapularis)

  • American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis)

  • Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)

Appearance

  • Size: Varies from ⅛ inches to ¼ inches depending on species. Engorged ticks may look larger or rounder.

  • Color: Brown, red-brown, or tan bodies varying in shade from light to dark. Engorged ticks often appear darker.

Control

Signs of Infestation

Check yourself for tick bites. Ticks generally suck blood around the ankles, armpits, underarms, ears, or scalp. You may find the tick burrowed into your skin, or you may see a swollen, red welt. This welt may itch or hurt. Ticks may also latch onto pets around the eyes, paws, shoulder blades, lower legs, noses, or ears.

Ticks can't handle excessive heat, so during summer they shelter in dark, enclosed locations where they can rest until evening. Outside, they do this in high, shady vegetation like trees and bushes. Ticks tend to perch in elevated places close to the ground. You can find them around siding, molding, and low plants.

Treatment and Prevention

When walking outside, avoid stepping near or through tall grass, shrubs, or bushes. Wear long sleeves, pants, and long socks when spending extended periods of time in areas where ticks may live. Check your body for ticks after spending time outside, paying special attention to your ankles, legs, and armpits.

If you find a tick on your body, remove it immediately using a tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the site where it's attached as possible. Don't squeeze the tick's abdomen or body while you're detaching it, but pull back gently but firmly. Wash and clean the site of the bite thoroughly using antiseptic and germicide.

Identification

Behavior and Diet

Ticks are infamous for feeding on the blood of a wide variety of mammals. They hunt for prey by climbing to elevated positions via tall grass, brush, leaves, or low branches. From this position, they can grab hold of, crawl, or drop onto prey passing nearby. 

Ticks are active throughout the spring and summer, but they dislike excessive heat, so they're more active during mild springs and early summers. Prey preferences and hunting habits vary by specific species, food availability, environment, and weather. Ticks are largely opportunistic hunters. 

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Ticks complete four development stages in their lifetime: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. This full cycle typically takes two years, but hot weather may expedite it. Ticks must consume a blood meal to pass into each different life stage after feeding--even when they're in larval form. 

Eggs take three weeks to two months to hatch. Newly-hatched larvae can feed immediately. They will latch onto prey and feed for 3 to 9 days until engorged. After feeding, larvae molt into nymph, which eventually molt into adults after another blood meal. Adults typically feed one last time then lay eggs and die.

Other Characteristics

  • Ticks are infamous transmitters of various dangerous diseases, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia. It takes about 24 hours for ticks to transmit their diseases to people via their bites.
  • Contrary to popular belief, ticks can't fly or "leap" from person to person. Instead, they "quest" by climbing onto plants and waiting until prey wander near them. Then they grab hold of their prey and crawl to a vulnerable spot.
  • Tick's front legs contain specialized organs that allow them to detect carbon dioxide gradients and other odors coming off of approaching hosts. These organs help ticks hunt very effectively.

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